My first World Cup was Italia 90 and my abiding memories of it are a hotchpotch of randomness: Cameroon’s Benjamin Massing trying to kill Claudio Caniggia in the opening match (and losing a boot in the process); Ciao – the rubbish tricolour stick-figure mascot; Pavarotti bellowing beautifully over a montage of some truly awful matches. And of course there was England, with Gazza’s tears, David Platt’s volley and Chris Waddle’s mullet and miss. It was around this time that I bought my first Panini World Cup sticker book, inspired by England’s run to the semi-finals.
And that’s why we kick off the first of three World Cup issues with a load of iconic footballers and stickers. As you will have noticed, this issue is bagged with the official Russia 2018 Panini sticker album, which must mean the build-up to the tournament is truly underway. Anyone want to swap a Jake Livermore for an Egyptian shiny?
As if that wasn’t enough, our cover feature this month reflects on the players who have come to define our World Cup memories, from Pele and Maradona to Cannavaro and Zidane. We also visited Brazil legend Ronaldo at his house in Madrid to discuss coming back from the heartache of France 98 to score the winning goal in the final four years later. If you weren’t excited for the World Cup, you will be now...